Speaking to Today’s Zaman, Egyptian Ambassador to Turkey Abderahman Salaheldin said Egypt under the new president will make a concerted effort to consolidate opposition groups in Syria to seize on the opportunity presented after the Geneva meeting by world powers who have, for the first time, reached a unanimous decision to pave the way for a post-Assad era to stop the bloodshed in Syria.
“We have very good Egyptian and Turkish coordination and cooperation [on this issue]. We also have Arab unanimity and consensus to support the unity of the opposition. We are not talking about supplying them with arms or escalating the tension at all, but uniting them as part of the transitional government,” Salaheldin underlined.
During a UN-hosted conference in Geneva on Saturday, foreign ministers of world governments, comprising the five permanent members of the UN Security Council along with Turkey, Iraq, Kuwait and Qatar, agreed to establish a transitional government in Syria as a solution to the 17-month-old crisis. The transitional government which the parties agreed on would include the Syrian opposition but, upon Russia’s insistence, would not exclude people from the incumbent administration.
Syrian opposition groups gathered in Cairo on Monday to discuss this latest Geneva agreement. Egypt, as well as Turkey, has previously hosted a series of meetings bringing together Syrian opposition groups, but coming on the heels of the Geneva development, the importance of this latest meeting has increased significantly. Many opposition groups currently do not want to sit on the same table with members of the Syrian administration to come up with a solution. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu was also in attendance at the meeting.
Davutoğlu, who will be in Egypt until Tuesday, is also planning to hold a private meeting with newly-elected president Mohammad Morsi. Davutoğlu would be the first foreign minister to pay Morsi a visit.
Salaheldin also warned international and regional governments to adopt a common position on the Syrian issue and not to sabotage any initiatives to bring them together because of their different positions on the Syrian problem.
“We don’t want anyone play on their [Syrian opposition] differences, whether they are ethnic or religious. This is really playing with fire and this would not only impact Syrian national unity but also impact its immediate neighbors’ national security, not to mention Turkey, Iraq and even Iran, Jordan or Lebanon.”
Salaheldin called upon Iran, which has close relations with the Syrian government, to also cooperate with the international community to be a part of the solution and encourage peaceful reconciliation in Syria. Acting otherwise would have serious negative repercussions on the Islamic Republic, he said.
The Egyptian ambassador also emphasized that Egypt has a great stake in having a strategic regional cooperation with Turkey, mentioning the common foreign policy principles of the two countries in the region and their close economic cooperation.